Liturgical Year: Lenten Family Prayers

I got the wooden cross here and the base at the craft store.
A couple of years ago, I wanted to make a meaningful centerpiece surrounded by liturgical prayers to be used by our family during Lent, similar to that of the Advent wreath. While thinking and praying about what to do, I thought of the Tenebrae service I had been to in college. Franciscan University always does the Tenebrae service on Wednesday of Holy Week. The service itself is from the old Liturgy of the Hours (or Office) for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. The word Tenebrae means “darkness”, and in the Tenebrae service psalms are recited, readings or lessons are read, and the fifteen candles are extinguished one by one. I decided that for our Lenten centerpiece I would use six candles (one for each week) in the shape of a cross and then instead of lighting one more candle each week, we would extinguish one candle each week until Holy Week when no candles would be lit. For Easter we make our home Paschal Candle which we use all of the Easter Season.
Shower of Roses blog has how to make your own, I bought mine at Target.
This year I decided to take psalms and readings from the Tenebrae service along with the collect of the day, to have a prayer for each Sunday with the Lenten candle cross. The first set of prayers is for Ash Wednesday when all six candles are lit. On the first Sunday of Lent, the first candle is extinguished and only five are lit during the week. We always light ours during our family dinner. Then on the second Sunday of Lent we extinguish another so that we only have four lit that week. On Palm Sunday, we extinguish the last, and then on Holy Saturday, we make our family paschal candle. 
I have not had the time to put together the prayers yet, but I will try to get this Sunday’s posted before Sunday. I failed to have them done for Ash Wednesday, so instead M read me this:

Ash Wednesday by T.S. Eliot

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Read the rest HERE.

Seven Quicktakes Friday-Feb. 1

I am going to link up today, so make sure you go visit Jen for all the quicktakes.

1. The major thing that happened to me this week was the realization that I have been having mild postpartum depression. Some days I have been totally fine, but other days I have felt completely overwhelmed at the thought of taking care of the kids and the house. I was attributing it to the adjustment to everything new in my life, but it turns out it is probably a hormonal imbalance. I was shot up with some progesterone yesterday and I am already noticing a difference. Hooray! So please keep me and the family in your prayers. And also please pray for someone else I am close to who has been diagnosed with depression (the non-postpartum version).

2. And here is an advertisement for the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning and NaProtechnology. They only reason I went to the doctor about feeling not normal was because my charting (which I started dutifully at 56 days postpartum which is what they ask when one is totally breastfeeding) indicated that my hormones levels were not quite right. I had a follow-up with my practitioner and she told me to call my doctor which lead to me getting some more hormones which after 30 hours seem to be helping a lot. So, if you are thinking about charting; having a regular follow-up person and charting can help with a lot of things, not just for avoiding or achieving pregnancy. Such as helping you be a nice mom instead of a spastic yelling mom who can’t handle tantrums at all…

3. G gave this to me today and said: “This is to help you with your blog.” Here it is:

I think that is a “G”.

4. We went to the Mall of America on Saturday despite G’s pleas to go to the art museum. My kid is already geeky. We got some smelly soaps since I had a gift card from my birthday in June that I had not used. Now everytime G washes her hands she says, “Mmmm, this soap smells like flowers! Do you want to smell my hands mom?!”

5. Lent is coming up. I am going to adapt a Tenebrae service this week for a Lenten devotion for my family. Look for more on it at Truth and Charity this week. Also, don’t forget that tomorrow is Candlemas, the Presentation of our Lord, and the last day of the Christmas/Season after Epiphany. So, it is the last day for your nativity scene and tree.

6. Now that I am going to be feeling better, I am going to attempt to do potty training for real again soon. Typical potty training episode so far which is why I had given up:

L: “I have to go potty.”
Me: “Okay, let’s go!” I put her on the toliet.
Me: “Have you gone yet, L?” L grabs at the toliet paper and pulls off a piece.
Me: “If you go you can have a frozen blueberry!”
L: “Blueberry!”
Me: “Have you gone yet? I am going to count to ten and then you go. One, two, three, four, five…”
L: “A flag!” She waves the toliet paper in the air.
Me: “Are you going to go?”
L: “No. All done.” She drops in the toliet paper in the toliet and then flushes.

7. I have just started Sigrid Undset’s biography on Catherine of Sienna. What an incredible life. I will probably be blogging about sainthood in the future, but one thing I do know and I told M last week is that I am not living a life of heroic virtue. His response: “I could have told you that!” Thanks dear. 🙂

The Call to be Outcasts: A Reflection on Les Misérables

I have not seen the new movie that came out on Christmas, and will probably not get a chance until it is on video or at the $2 theater in Minneapolis (when maybe I will be willing to leave the baby with a sitter). I have seen the musical performed live and have read the unabridged novel; this reflection is based more on the novel but does not depart from the plot of the musical.

While I can’t boast of fluency in French, I have read that “les misérables” translates into something like “the outcasts” or “the wretched ones” or “the miserables.” I want to focus on the “outcast” translation. If you look at each of the main characters, they are all outside of society: Jean Valjean the exconvict, Fantine the former mistress of a wealthy student who was left with an illicit child, Cosette the orphan child being raised by the exconvict, the Thenardier family who spend their whole lives stealing from people, Javert who is a police officer standing outside society to keep order, and Marius the orphan and republican student.

The character I am going to examine is Jean Valjean. He spent 19 years in jail regretting his small crime, and is filled with rage and hate. He encounters society’s terror of exconvicts when he is on parole when he is unable to find food or shelter; however, even after his conversion caused by the bishop’s kindness, he lives in fear of his former self. No matter how many good deeds he does and how virtuous he becomes, he is always aware of who he is, Jean Valjean the exconvict. It doesn’t matter that all he did was break a window and steal a loaf of bread when he was starving: he is an exconvict. As soon as people learn of his past, they fear him and think that there is no possible way that he can be good. Yet, when they do not know his identity as the exconvict, they recognize his saintly deeds and virtuous character.

There are several turning points in the story where Valjean struggles with choosing the morally right thing. If he follows his conscience, he will have to expose his past (and what he believes to be his true self) and be condemned by those who respect him; however, because of the influence of the bishop, he has been transformed and cannot disregard his conscience. It is not until the end of Valjean’s life that there is a person who is aware of both his criminal history and all the good he has done. This person recognizes that he is a saint.

Jean Valjean represents the life of a saint. He has a conversion, turns from his old life, never does a wrong thing again and is constantly running from his former sins. He seeks the life of virtue and union with God, but is always aware of his sinful nature. He constantly condemns himself when he is already good. He continues to find his weaknesses and overcome them until he has completely abandoned himself to the point of physical death. I think this is how we are called to overcome our sins, to become more and more selfless so that we completely lose ourselves in God. We need to be horrified at our ability to sin and our past sins. Fortunately, God is much more forgiving than society, and we must run to him. Valjean’s one flaw is his inability to accept forgiveness from God for his past sins, but in this he displays what it is to live a penitential life.

If we truly live the call to sainthood, we will be cast out of society like Jean Valjean. To seek be holy in a modern society is to be set apart a life of virtue and penance does not make sense without God. If we are truly seeking to be holy, we will be outcasts. This experience of being cast out of society is becoming more and more real for Catholic Christians in modern America. Being “set apart” is never easy, but with the grace of God it can and will be done. God will provide what we need to be sustained through the community of believers. Valjean says that love is what leads to human flourishing; without love the human soul dies, the human dies. So we must live the lives of saints with those whom we love and not fear the call to be outcasts.

Originally posted on Truth and Charity.

Quicktakes for Friday, October 26

1. 38 weeks and still pregnant.

2. My nesting energy is completely gone today. Is this a sign of labor? 😉

3. I was thinking about revamping a paper I wrote in grad school about liturgy, but I think that much better thought and research will be found here. This is written by one of my dear college friends, who received her masters in liturgy and has all the right views about liturgy so please read what she has to say and follow her posts. I am eager to read them myself!

4. I finally used my birthday gift card to Barnes and Nobles today (I received it in June). I wanted some good pre/post baby reading now that most of the baby prep is done. I chose Catherine of Sienna by Sigrid Undset, My Life in France by Julia Child, and A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. I am excited for Undset because her novel Kristen Lavrensdatter was amazing, Catholic, and inspired me in my motherhood. I think the book about Julia Child should be fairly light compared to other books I have been reading lately. I have been using recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking on occasion and Julia Child seems like a fairly interesting person. And Dickens is an author I always enjoy and for some reason I have never read A Tale of Two Cities. I think I will blame my educators…

5. Fall is turning into Winterish weather here in Minnesota. I am prepared to sit inside and nurse my baby until after our Christmas travels, and then I will have to brave going out places in the long winter or go insane with my three, three and under. 🙂

6. We had a fun incident with the car battery dying this Monday. That is of our new (used) van. Fortunately, AAA’s roadside assistance includes in the garage assistance. It was simply a matter of lights being left on inside the car. So it is all take care of now.

7. Sunday was our parish Fall Festival and we won a few prizes, G won a couple of toys and candy, M won a bottle of wine, and we all won $20 of meat at a local butcher. We also ate the world famous Booya, which is a turkey and other meats stew with vegetables, rice, and potatoes. It was actually good. I was concerned my fickle pregnant stomach would not handle it, but it did.

Check out more quick takes at:

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Friday Quicktakes-Sept 7

1. These will probably not post until Saturday. Today was get the kids ready alone, quick pre-school activity, Mass for First Friday, playdate, naptime (workout video and shower), get ready for sitter, new faculty dinner at M’s school, talking to my sister about labor, finishing Miss Marple episode. Now I am attempting to do a few quicktakes.

2. Speaking of First Friday Mass we went to a church near our home but not St. Agnes. After communion, G asked me “Why did they not use the kneeler?” pointing to the communion rail. Exactly. I love St. Agnes liturgies. They know how it is done.

3. I went to a women’s Bible study at St. Agnes given by our pastor. I went to Mass alone without children, had a dinner with other ladies that I did not cook, and listened to a lecture on scripture. It is a monthly event, and I am really excited to participate in it. Plus, the other ladies in my small group seem very nice.

4. L is obsessed with bathtime because of the toy ducks and fish she plays with in the tub. So much so that she calls bathtime, “Duckfish”. We have been imagining a creature that is a combination of a duck and fish. Today on Motherhood on a Dime’s 20 Freebies list was this kindle book: DUCKFISH. This caused a fit of giggles for my husband and I at the end of the day, and we downloaded the book to a kindle app and discovered it was not even to be considered a work of literature. I will show L the picture of the duckfish at least.

5. Speaking of children’s literature I plan to start a series on here reviewing worthwhile children’s literature and why individual books/authors are awesome. I am tired of bad children’s literature.

6. I need to tell you all that Cajetan and Garrigou-Lagrange are not evil, contrary to what I was taught in college. Further DeLubac demonized them unnecessarily or he was a bad scholar. If you want the evidence talk to my husband. I am still getting over the negative aversions instilled in me when I hear those names.

7. On a lighter note I have embarked this week on my goal to learn easy, pretty updos for long hair now that my hair has gotten long again. I am branching out from the ponytail. This blog seems to have some good tutorials.

On Living the Catholic Life in the World

Sorry it has been so long. Big changes have happened in my life. The baby was born and it has been a very long transition.

M., G., and I spent the last few weeks traveling around the Midwest to see family, and long car trips make for good conversation as long as the baby is not crying. While we discussed, I started to see more clearly the life I am called to live in the world. Last year I posted about living simply because of our own limited resources, but I am starting to see that the life we have chosen is truly Catholic and even if we had all the money in the world we would still choose to live the way we do—though we might spend more money on food so we could eat finer meals.

The question is, what does it mean to be Catholic in the world today and how does one best live in the world but not conform to the world. “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) It is hard to find the balance between the extremes of entire worldliness and a puritanical lifestyle. For example, I could look at how some people indulge in drinking to extreme drunkenness and lose a sense of the goodness of alcohol. There seems to be goodness in the creature of alcohol that not many people have a sense of in modern America (or even Europe). They drink what M. and I have referred to as “beer substitutes,” which are more like water than beer. And they call it drinking… They also abuse alcohol in other ways by simply drinking too much. I have found that drinking good drinks is enjoyable. It is nice to have at the end of the day, or in the evening with dinner. God made it good, and it can lead us to God. Thus, it would be wrong to entirely reject it. I know some of you are laughing at me now remembering my former views on drinking, and I thank you for helping me come to a better understanding.

Another example of what I am trying to express is the modern understanding of reading. A while ago C. sent me an article about kid’s books about bodily functions to simply get kids to read. It showed me that there is a huge focus on getting kids to read. It does not matter what they read as long as they read. Is there virtue to simply reading no matter what it is? I spent much of my childhood reading books like the Baby-sitter’s club, but I wonder if I would have spent my time just as well playing video games and watching cartoons on television. It does matter what you read. Reading should be for the sake of forming one’s character, leading one to grow in virtue. The great books that are remembered teach people about life and what it means to live well. However, it is not easy to choose to read something that will form character. It is much easier to read a blockbuster novel than something like Les Miserables, but I am certain that Jean Valjean can teach me much more about virtue than whoever is in the other book.

So, what does it mean to live as a Catholic in the world. I am seeking to live a truly sacramental life. This means I must give up certain things the world sees as normal, but not live to such an extreme that others cannot relate to me. I want to live in such a way that leads others to God and makes them wonder what they are missing. One thing I am thankful that I live without is a television. For a year now I have lived without a television in my home, and I do not miss it at all. Whenever I am around television, I am disgusted at the content of the shows and the consumerism present in the commercials. There are certain things I might miss, like speeches and news, but these things I can find on the Internet as well. M. and I will kill your television for you if you would like. While I was pregnant we got in the habit of watching a movie almost every week, and after G. was born we started looking at our movie watching habits, realizing that our reasons for watching them were more and more out of laziness and less and less out of a desire to see a certain good movie. My philosophy of movie watching is similar to that of book-reading. If it is no good and does not lead me closer to God, then it is not worth watching. So we decided to limit our movie watching, and hope that by limiting it to a certain number a month, we can be virtuous in our choice of movie and find the ones worth watching.

Another thing to be careful about is the use of the Internet. It is so easy to get sucked into it and waste time on things that are stupid (such as reading my blog…lol…but seriously I hope this blog does some good for somebody even if it is just me). I know this is a place I need to grow, so I am seeking to become virtuous in my use of the Internet, such as blogging on important things…and using facebook well (is that possible?).

Living a Catholic life in the world calls for finding the good and truth in society, accepting it and allowing it to bring one closer to God, and being careful not to get caught up in the evil in the world. It is an extreme way to live, but it seems to be the right way to live. I know I have not touched on every aspect of life, but this is just the beginning…